Sides Can Be Stars, Too: 18 Grilled Vegetable Recipes for Memorial Day

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[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt, Joshua Bousel]

Burgers, steaks, and chicken are all well and good, but it's probably not a great idea to just serve meat on Memorial Day; throwing some veggies into the mix will round out the meal and keep things a little healthier. And even if meat is your focus, the vegetables shouldn't be an afterthought. Basic skewers and ears of corn aren't particularly festive, after all. To help you find something more exciting we've rounded up 18 of our favorite grilled vegetable recipes, from creamy elotes, to crispy grilled potato salad cheesy eggplant rollatini.

Simple Grilled Asparagus

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Grilling asparagus is so simple that it almost feels silly to publish a recipe for it. All you need to do is toss the stalks with olive oil, salt, and pepper and throw them on a hot grill. The toughest part is making sure they don't fall between the grates. Serve the charred asparagus with two-minute aioli flavored with harissa, sumac and mint, or tarragon and lemon.

Get the recipe for Simple Grilled Asparagus »

Grilled Leeks With Romesco Sauce

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

Trying to cook leeks entirely on the grill is a waste of time and coals—much better is to soften them in boiling water and then grill them just until charred. The mildly oniony grilled leeks are wonderful paired with Romesco, a Spanish sauce made with roasted red pepper and almond.

Get the recipe for Grilled Leeks With Romesco Sauce »

Catalonian-Inspired Grilled Vegetable Salad (Xató)

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

While we're on the topic of Romesco, we might as well talk about Xató, the Catalonian salad that gets dressed with a sauce that's very similar. In this dish, grilled endive and scallion get chopped up and tossed with a thick purée made from tomatoes, chilies, and both hazelnuts and almonds, all of which spend a little time on the grill, too. It's perfect as a side for a day when all you want to do is clack your tongs by the grill.

Get the recipe for Catalonian-Inspired Grilled Vegetable Salad (Xató) »

Grill-Roasted Carrots With Sweet Soy Glaze

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

If you are willing to commit to a recipe that's going to take a long time on the grill, try these glazed carrots. After about 45-60 minutes over medium-high heat they become sweet and tender—totally worth the wait. We glaze the carrots with honey (to emphasize their sweetness) and soy sauce (for salty contrast).

Get the recipe for Grill-Roasted Carrots With Sweet Soy Glaze »

Grilled Mixed Mushrooms With Sesame Dressing

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[Photograph: Shao Z.]

Even though mushrooms contain a ton of water, they're prone to drying out on the grill. Basting them throughout the cooking process (in this case with a mixture of butter and soy sauce) keeps them perfectly moist. To add extra flavor and texture, we like to dress these grilled mushrooms with roasted sesame seeds, mirin, and soy sauce.

Get the recipe for Grilled Mixed Mushrooms With Sesame Dressing »

Simple Grilled-Potato Salad With Grilled-Lemon Vinaigrette

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Potato salad is a standard cookout side, but it usually doesn't look like this. After par-boiling we rough up the potatoes in a bowl and grill them until crispy. Instead of mayo, we dress the salad with a charred-lemon vinaigrette—cooking the lemons on the fire brings out their sweetness.

Get the recipe for Simple Grilled-Potato Salad With Grilled-Lemon Vinaigrette »

Grilled Cabbage With Blue Cheese Dressing

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

While we're updating classic sides, how about replacing coleslaw with grilled cabbage? Cabbage takes on a sweet, nutty flavor when grilled over roaring coals. Here we dress it wedge salad-style with blue cheese dressing, cherry tomatoes, and bacon bits (leave them out to keep the dish vegetarian).

Get the recipe for Grilled Cabbage With Blue Cheese Dressing »

Grilled Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

While this Midwestern boy is never going to complain about a plain old grilled ear of corn, that doesn't mean there isn't significant room for improvement. This Mexican classic takes perfectly grilled corn and makes it even better by slathering it with a sauce made of mayo, crema, cotija, garlic, cilantro, and powdered chili. Make sure you have extra corn, because this is going to be a hit.

Get the recipe for Grilled Mexican Street Corn (Elotes) »

Grilled Corn, Tomato, Feta, and Herb Salad

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Corn on the cob is a little messy—for ease of eating consider going with corn salad instead. This one pairs grilled corn with ripe local tomatoes, salty feta cheese, and herbs like parsley, mint, and basil. As long as you start with great corn and tomatoes, the salad doesn't need any dressing beyond a little lemon juice and olive oil.

Get the recipe for Grilled Corn, Tomato, Feta, and Herb Salad »

Grilled Spiced Cauliflower

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

Cauliflower is at its best when cooked over high heat to crisp up the outside without turning the inside to mush, so it's perfect for the grill. Since florets are bound to fall through the grates, steaks are a better choice. Here we flavor the grilled cauliflower with and earthy blend of spices like turmeric, cumin, and coriander.

Get the recipe for Grilled Spiced Cauliflower »

Grilled Eggplant Rollatini

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

We use the grill twice in this recipe, first cooking the eggplant slices until browned and tender, then returning them to the grill in a covered baking dish after rolling them up with ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, provolone, and basil. We cook the stuffed eggplant in an easy marinara that is way better than anything you would find in a jar.

Get the recipe for Grilled Eggplant Rollatini »

Eggplant Spirals With Greek Yogurt, Tomatoes, and Cucumber

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

I'm all for recipes that involve four different kinds of cheese, but if you want a lighter eggplant roll-up, then this is the dish for you. We start by grilling the eggplant the same way as in the recipe above, but then fill it with tomatoes, cucumber, and a bright, creamy Greek yogurt spread flavored with mint and dill.

Get the recipe for Eggplant Spirals With Greek Yogurt, Tomatoes, and Cucumber »

Halloumi and Vegetable Skewers

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

As tasty as the onions, zucchini, and tomatoes tossed in a red wine vinaigrette are, to me this recipe is all about the halloumi. The salty, squeaky Greek cheese is firm enough to be grill-friendly and steals the show.

Get the recipe for Halloumi and Vegetable Skewers »

Balsamic Vegetable Skewers

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[Photograph: Joshua Bousel]

These skewers, on the other hand, are all about the veggies. We use a mix of vegetables—zucchini, squash, red onion, bell peppers, and grape tomatoes—and toss them with a balsamic vinaigrette before grilling. The vegetables don't take on a ton of the vinaigrette's flavor from the quick toss, so we save some to spoon over the skewers before serving.

Get the recipe for Balsamic Vegetable Skewers »

Grilled Green Bean Salad With Red Peppers and Radishes

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This salad is tailor-made to be perfect for cookouts. Most of the work—making a quick vinaigrette and adding radishes, scallions, and red peppers—can be done before your guests arrive; all there's left to do is quickly char the green beans. That basic technique works with all sorts of ingredient combinations, like grilled broccolini with pickled chili peppers, olive oil, red onions, and lemon juice.

Get the recipe for Grilled Green Bean Salad With Red Peppers and Radishes »

Grilled Trevisano or Radicchio With Gorgonzola, Olive Oil, and Saba

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Radicchio and trevisano are a little too bitter for my tastes raw, but on the grill they become sweet and succulent. In this easy recipe we char the radicchio and serve it with olive oil, gorgonzola, and saba. Saba is a sweet syrup made from grape must—various balsamic condiments will work in its place. If you want to skip the cheese, you could always try dressing grilled radicchio or trevisano with a sour-sweet cherry gastrique. Fair warning: It's a bold mix of flavors, and it's a better side for simpler dishes like whole grilled fish or a grilled chicken than for anything more complex.

Get the recipe for Grilled Trevisano or Radicchio With Gorgonzola, Olive Oil, and Saba »

Grilled Skewered Shishito Peppers With Teriyaki Glaze

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

If you're grilling up yakitori for Memorial Day and already have a batch of homemade teriyaki sauce ready, then you might as well grill up some shishitos too. Double-skewer the peppers to make them easier to flip, grill for just a couple of minutes, brush with sauce, and you're ready to eat.

Get the recipe for Grilled Skewered Shishito Peppers With Teriyaki Glaze »

Grilled Summer Squash With Chimichurri

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Chimichurri also can pull double duty at a cook out, as it's equally good with grilled meat as it is with vegetables. Here we dress grilled zucchini and summer squash, hack 'em up, and dress them with the piquant mix of onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, grassy parsley, herbal cilantro, and zippy jalapeños.

Get the recipe for Grilled Summer Squash With Chimichurri »